TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘TBI Caregiver’

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . Thomas Hopkins, Jr (Tommy)

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . Thomas Hopkins, Jr (Tommy)

presented

by Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Tommy Hopkins, Jr Survivor of Brain Injury

 

 

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Thomas Hopkins, Jr.

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

Mountain Home, Idaho, USA (originally from Wisconsin)

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

I was 19 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I have had several head traumas that led to my brain injuries. I’ll discuss the main ones. I have two injuries from February 2003. The first was due to a JDAM bomb (Joint Direct Attack Munition – a guidance kit that converts unguided bombs into all-weather precision-guided munitions). The second was from an explosion in a unit I was working with. In 2006, on my 4th tour, I had gotten a hammer to the head. I do not recall this incident at all. My fourth injury was in May 2007. I was still on my 4th tour. Our camp got morning RPG/mortar hits. The shop I was working in had one hit close by that shook the shop. The 40-lb. equipment I was working on fell over and hit me in the back of the head.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

I started noticing issues after my first injury back in 2003 – daily headaches, ringing in my ears, light sensitivity, plus I would invert numbers.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

Due to the units I was in, I did not get treatment. I’ll rephrase that – due to the units I was part of, unless you lost a limb, your sight, etc. or your life was in danger, you were not allowed to seek medical treatment.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

No coma

8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)? How long were you in rehab?

I started seeking help once I got out of the army. I started at the VA (medical care at hospitals of the Veterans Administration). It was not the best outcome.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I have convergence insufficiency (a condition in which your eyes are unable to work together when looking at nearby objects, creating double or blurred vision),

photophobia, daily headaches that turn into migraines, and constant tinnitus. One doctor said I have damage to the autonomic and limbic systems in my brain. Other doctors have said that I don’t even have a brain injury! (LOL) I have no concept of time; I experience jerks (involuntary muscle movements); I search for words; my speech is slurred; my brain often won’t let me get my words out; and I have a poor memory. I do not feel 60+% of my body, and my lower limbs do not work a lot of the time. “Partial Para” is what they call it. At times, I need to be in a wheelchair.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

Worse

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

I miss my memory. It used to be photographic.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

Retirement (LOL) … Driving my wife nuts (LOL) … Um, working my brain in different ways to work on problems and situations that come up in my hobbies

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

I’m not Johnny-on-the-spot anymore. I miss my memory. My body is going to shit.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

MY WIFE. Even though most of my injury is “invisible,” she showed me that I also have physical scars that I and others can see.

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Yup. That’s a very long answer.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

Yup. We lost a lot of friends and family because I was not the same Tommy I was before I was brain-injured in the war.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

Tommy Hopkins, Jr. Brain Injury Survivor
Caregiver – Kristina Hopkins

MY WIFE! I have a rough idea of some of what she does for me, but I have no clue of what all she does.

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

My “plan” is to maintain what I have and live each day as if it is my last.

19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other survivors with your specific kind of brain injury.

Yes. You have to adapt to your new self. That old person is gone. I had to realize I will never be as I once was, BUT I am still able to do most things with adaptation.

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

My advice: Good days come and go. Work with the day you have because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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Past Blast – TBI TALES . . . . . . What’s Really Important

What’s Really Important

(previously published on February 14, 2015)

 by

 Kayla Bradberry Knight

(presented by Donna O’Donnell Figurski)

 

Kayla Bradberry KnightLast year on February 13, my husband, Wyatt, took me out for a Valentine’s Day dinner. He and the kids gave me cards that morning. I was on cloud nine. Who would have thought that five days later my husband would be fighting for his life and our families would be turned upside down?valentine-s-day-clip-art

God has taught me many lessons this year. Most of all, I’ve learned that earthly possessions mean nothing. Sure, they make one happy for a while. But no gift, flower bouquet, or box of chocolates could take the place of what I have today. My husband is still here! Oh, how happy it makes me to be able to say that!

He may not realize that it’s even Valentine’s Day. Nor will he walk through the door with a gift, BUT I still get to hug him. The kids and I still get to tell him how much we love him. That, my friends, is irreplaceable. Don’t just sign that sweet card or have those beautiful flowers delivered. Show that person how much he or she means…not just today, but every day!Love Every Day

 

(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the author.)

If you have a story to share and would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please submit your TBI Tale to me at donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com. I will publish as many stories as I can.

 

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Caregivers SPEAK OUT! Bill Duwe

Caregivers SPEAK OUT!

Bill Duwe  (caregiver for his son)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Bill Duwe Caregiver

Bill Duwe – Caregiver for son, Ray

 

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Bill Duwe

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email? (optional)

Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, USA     wduwe@cox.net

3. What is the brain-injury survivor’s relationship to you? How old was the survivor when he/she had the brain injury? What caused your survivor’s brain injury?

I am Ray’s father. He was 34 when he suffered a brain-stem contusion in a motor-vehicle accident.

4. On what date did you begin care for your brain-injury survivor? Were you the main caregiver? Are you now? How old were you when you began care?

Ray was released from the hospital on January 27, 2001. We shared caregiving with his wife until November 2001, when Ray moved to our house. My wife and I have been his main caregivers since November 2001. I was 60 years old.

Bill Duwe Wife & Son Ray IMG_6570 (2)

Bill Duwe and his wife – Caregivers for son, Ray

5. Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?

No, but my wife’s mother was requiring some assistance. Eventually, we were caring for her and Ray in our home. She passed away in 2007.

6. Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s brain injury? If so, were you able to continue working?

Yes, I was employed. My employer helped by allowing me to work from home a day or two a week. I worked for 2½ more years. Then it seemed better for me to retire.

7. Did you have any help? If so, what kind and for how long?

Absolutely! Currently, I have eighteen volunteers who help with stretching exercises for Ray. I trained these volunteers. We exercise Ray twice a day on a physical therapy table. For seven of those exercise times each week, a volunteer comes to help. Exercise takes about 45 minutes. Some volunteers come once every week; some, twice a month; and some, once every two months – depending on their availability. This does wonders for everyone’s morale – my wife, Ray, the volunteers, and I are all uplifted in spirit.Volunteers

In addition, I employ a nurse for two hours to bathe, give medicines, help dress, and help exercise Ray twice a week. My wife will have knee-replacement surgery next month, so we will employ this nurse two hours a day, six days a week, during my wife’s recovery. Two of Ray’s children will also come to help us during her recovery.

8.When did your support of the survivor begin (e.g., immediately – in the hospital; when the survivor returned home; etc.)?

We received ten days of family training on the rehab floor of the hospital before they released Ray. They trained us in physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and all daily care. We did most of his care during those ten days.

9.Was your survivor in a coma? If so, what did you do during that time?

Ray was in a deep coma. He did not respond in any way for one month. He partially opened his eyes exactly one month after the injury. We camped in the waiting room day and night. We took turns going home at night for a shower and an occasional night of sleep at home.

10. Did your survivor have rehab? If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)? How long was the rehab? Where were you when your survivor was getting therapy?

Ray received inpatient therapy during the ten days of family training. After he was released from the hospital, we were able to get various periods of outpatient or home-health therapy for a few years. We have always been directly involved in any therapy.

11. What problems or disabilities of your brain-injury survivor required your care, if any?

Ray is a non-verbal quadriplegic. He requires complete 24-hour care. Ray’s ability to communicate is very limited. Frequently he can close his eyes for “Yes.” Sometimes he can shake his head for “No.” Occasionally he can smile, but the heavy doses of seizure medications have dulled his ability to show emotion.

12. How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? Is it better? Is it worse?

There have been significant adjustments to our daily life. We made major accessibility accommodations. We have a wheelchair-van. We built a custom accessible home. I would not say life is better or worse. We learned how to adapt. We travel extensively – road trips and cruises. We are able to do what we want – it just takes extra planning and effort. We enjoy going to church, eating out, etc. Ray goes with us. Many of Ray’s friends have connected with us. Ray’s children are close to Ray and us.

13. What do you miss the most from pre-brain-injury life?

We very much miss the old Ray.

14. What do you enjoy most in post-brain-injury life?

It has provided opportunities to connect with and appreciate Ray’s friends. We enjoy sharing our experiences with other caregivers and friends we make in our travels and with therapy students.

15. What do you like least about brain injury?

The devastation to the survivor and his family

87747316. Has anything helped you to accept your survivor’s brain injury?

Ray’s demeanor indicates he has accepted his injury. Knowing he accepts it helps us accept it.

17. Has your survivor’s injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Our marriage is strong. Unfortunately, Ray’s marriage did not survive. Ray’s children are close to Ray and ready to help when needed. We may be closer to his children than we would have been otherwise.

18. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

We seldom attend church-class parties in a home because it is difficult, or impossible, to get Ray into most homes. Otherwise, we have an active social life. My wife and I each have social activities we attend individually.

19. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

In ten years, I will be 87. I expect to still be taking care of Ray in our home. I may need more help, but who knows? My health is good. I expect Ray, my wife, and I will be traveling.

20. What advice would you offer other caregivers of brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

  • Make the effort to find support, and work to keep support.
  • Take care of yourself and your life.
  • Remember, you know your survivor’s medical history better than any doctor does. Use your knowledge to help the doctor. (For instance, scar tissue in Ray’s lungs may be misinterpreted as pneumonia on an X-ray.)
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“We Still Have Him to Love” by Bill Duwe

 

 

I have written a book, “We Still Have Him to Love” by Bill Duwe. I wrote it to help other caregivers. It is available on Amazon.com.

 

 

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New NEWS: . . . . . . . 2019 Caregiving Visionary Award Finalist

New News:    2019 Caregiving Visionary Award Finalist

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

th-1YAY! I am one of ten finalists for the 2019 Caregiving Visionary caregiver-word-clipart-1Award, so I’m still in the running. A great big THANK YOU to all who voted for me. Your votes helped immensely. YOU made this happen and I am so honored to be a finalist. Winners will be announced March 1st.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! THANK YOU!

 

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . VOTE for Me! – Caregiver Visionary Award

VOTE for Me! – Caregiver Visionary Award

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

This is just an itty-bitty, tiny-teeny, itsy-bitsy newsletter because I want to share some exciting news with you.

I have been nominated for the “Caregiver Visionary Award,” which will honor five th-1caregivers who stand out in their caregiver world. Now frankly, I think all caregivers deserve this award, but, alas, only five will be chosen, and I hope I am one of them. David thinks I should be too. He nominated me.

I need your help. Only you can make this happen. Here’s how it works. In order to be chosen as one of the top ten finalists, I need votes. Internet votes! That’s it. Pretty easy. All you have to do is click on the link I posted below.

https://www.caregiving.com/ncc19/cva-donna-odonnell-figurski/

Voting ends at Midnight ET on February 25, 2019. So please HURRY!

Scroll to the end of my nomination.
Click on “Cast your vote.”
Takes you to a new page
Lists all nomineesplease-vote
Mark my name, Donna O’Donnell Figurski.
Click “VOTE!

See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

On March 1, 2019, the winners will be announced. You’ll probably know right away because you will hear me squealing and jumping for joy. And now, I am going to cross my fingers until March 1st. pco5aerzi

ashdis kjdihio jsh pogwkp d wyqye. Oops! It’s really hard to type with crossed fingers.

Translation : Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart!

P.S. Phew! Thank goodness that’s done. I hate to ask for things!

 

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Past Blast: Mansion Dancing Under the Stars

“TBI Tales: Mansion Dancing Under the Stars”

(originally published April 26, 2014)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

mansion-at-westport

David and I met on the dance floor when I was 16 years old. He was 17. We fell in love under a strobe light. Through our married years, we danced at weddings and at parties, but when David’s Traumatic Brain Injury left his body as limp as Raggedy Andy, I never dreamed that David and I would ever dance again. But, during a recent trip to Westport, Massachusetts, to spend time with our son, Jared, his fiancé, Emily, and her family, we found ourselves staying in a mansion … only feet from the Atlantic Ocean. Our host, dancers-thSusan, was beyond gracious, concerned about our every comfort. On our second night there, she threw a big family party on her extensive patio and even more expansive grounds overlooking the ocean; and she invited us. We stopped in about midnight.

The partygoers were huddled around the fire-ring … music still blaring. Jared and Emily began to dance on the patio. I swayed. David sat in a tall patio chair. Then the unthinkable happened. David asked me to dance. I hadn’t expected that! David can barely walk – dancing had not been on his radar for more than seven years. I looked at him expectantly. Was he kidding, being facetious? ballroom_dancing_stars_swinging_lg_clrNo! With a huge grin, I answered, “Yes!”

We didn’t Cha-Cha or Swing, as we had learned in our Ballroom Dance classes. We didn’t attempt the Fox Trot, or even the Waltz, though Paula, our dance instructor after David had his TBI (another story), would have been proud of us if we had. But, we did our own dance. We swayed back and forth – never moving our feet. We call it the “TBI Sway.” We swayed with my head resting against David’s shoulder and his hand gently placed at the small of my back. We swayed with David holding on to me for dear life … for balance. We danced under the stars to an old favorite, “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers, with the sounds of ocean waves lapping the shore, with smiles on our lips, and remembrances of days gone by … and the promise of our days ahead.dance under stars

anim0014-1_e0-1As I say after each post:

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If you have a story to tell, please contact me at donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com

New NEWS: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . New Website for Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

New NEWS: Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale – New Website

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

I launched a new website dedicated to my Writing Life. It’s simply called, “donna o’donnell figurski – Author.”

Donna Figurski Website Banner

It tells about Me, Me, Me. Who Am I anyway?

You can learn about my books here.

The site includes my online and print publications. You can even find the links to the articles so you can read them right now.

It shares some of my favorite books–both for adult and for children. How many have you read? What’s your favorite?

It lists Praise for Prisoners. Oh MY Gosh — I can’t believe what folks are saying about Prisoners.

Thanks for reading my book, Prisoners without Bar: A Caregiver’s Tale. Did you know that there aren’t many books about brain injury? But, here are a few good ones.Prisoners without Bars

 

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Kuna Williams

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Kuna Williams

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Kuna WIlliams1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Kuna Williams

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

I currently live in Tempe, Arizona. At the time of my accident, I was a homeowner in Surprise, Arizona.

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

I received my traumatic brain injury (TBI) on July 27, 2006. I was 26 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I was involved in a motorcycle accident a couple blocks up the street from home. I was on my way to play a game of billiards.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

When I was hit, a gentleman found my cell phone and called the phone number titled “Mom.” My mother and my father drove from Glendale to the scene of the accident – Surprise. I was taken to the hospital while in a coma. The following morning my mother was advised that, among other injuries, I had received a traumatic brain injury.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

I received emergency treatment and was ambulanced to the hospital. I was unresponsive at the scene of the accident, and therefore I was intubated. My left lung was collapsed (left pneumothorax) for which a chest tube was inserted. My left wrist was broken. (I had an open left distal radius and ulna fracture.) It was repaired with multiple screws. An EVD (external ventricular drain) was made for a closed head injury and remained for two weeks. I received a trache (tracheostomy tube) and was placed on a ventilator. (A tracheostomy tube is inserted into the trachea for the primary purpose of establishing and maintaining an airway.) A GJ-tube (gastro-jejunal tube) was also inserted. (GJ-tubes can be used to bypass the stomach and feed directly into the second portion of the small intestine.)webpage-clipart-hospital9-1

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

I was in a medically induced coma for twelve days. About four months after my accident, they put in a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt (which redirects excess fluid away from the brain to the abdomen, which can more easily tolerate surplus fluid). They also installed an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter (used to prevent blood clots from moving through the blood into the lungs), which will stay inside for the rest of my life.

8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)? How long were you in rehab?

I had both inpatient and outpatient rehab. Inpatient rehab was for three months and included physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Holistic outpatient rehab included physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, and speech therapy. Holistic rehab was for a total of eighteen months. I continue to see a neuropsychologist.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?th

Due to my TBI, I have memory issues, changes in the speed of processing, a field cut (vision loss), and balance issues.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

Certain aspects of my life are better. I have more of an appreciation for what life has to offer, and I am more optimistic about what can be achieved. My feeling of optimism comes from my Faith, the many resources that are provided, and networking.

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

I miss cruising custom cars.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

Kuna Williams and Evie

Survivor of Brain Injury – Kuna Williams & wife, Evie

I enjoy spending time with my wife, drawing, attending brain injury events, participating in church, and – best of all – being a caregiver and helping others who have physical and/or mental challenges.

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

I don’t have much that I don’t like. It’s just sad how it took an accident to bring this new outlook on life.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

What helps me with acceptance is that I realize It can always be worse. I attend support-groups. Others with the similar conditions share with you their compensations, and you share your tips and tricks. You feel good about how you can help someone. I accept my challenge and realize I can use compensations. Acceptance is tough, but, once you have accepted your circumstance, think Oh well. Move on … things WILL get better!

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Yes. What has changed is that I’m not out gallivanting and abusing substances. What has also changed is my financial life and spending tactics.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

See my answer to the previous question.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

I am a survivor, but I also work as a caregiver. My main consumer has a TBI (just like me), and the other gentleman was born with challenges and wasn’t expected to live as long as he has. I treat them as friends that I can relate to. I don’t make their challenges a characteristic.

logo18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I have previously done computer-aided drafting before and after my injury occurred. I also worked retail before I got back into drafting. After my TBI, I was no longer good at drafting. But, I am good at talking to people, and I love to draw. So, that is what led me to being a caregiver part-time and designing T-shirts part-time.

19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other survivors with your specific kind of brain injury.

Kuna Willaims & Evie 2

Survivor of Brain Injury – Kuna Williams & wife, Evie

Survivor of Brain Injury – Kuna Williams & wife, Evie

I’ve learned from my rehab that “Things Take Time.” Don’t rush things, but keep trying. Show steady persistence until you develop a routine for something. Find something you are good at or something you want to do.

20.What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Find your Niche!

 

You can learn more about Kuna at the following sites.

SortaFixd

weremovingforward

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

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Sneak Peeks for Prisoners

My book, Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, will be released to the public on November 1, 2018 by WriteLife Publishing of Boutique of Quality Books Publishing Company.  Here are pre-order links for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Excerpt 7

Chapter 21

“Don’t Worry” Means “Worry”

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

woman_on_cell_phone_3… I always screened the messages, so I stopped before I closed the door and listened. My skin prickled as I heard a familiar voice. Dr. Bradofsky from Radburn was leaving a message. He said not to worry—everything was okay, which, of course, meant I would worry and that everything was not okay. Doctors rarely call with good news. I dashed up the stairs, snatched the phone from the cradle, and identified myself.

Dr. Bradofsky said that David had fallen out of bed and landed on his head! Though it man-s-head-bump-cartoon-stars-56250235didn’t appear to be serious, he expected a large goose egg on David’s right temple. He said he would observe him. He also had arranged for an ambulance to transport David to an imaging facility the following day for a CT scan to rule out additional trauma. I “calmly” accepted his news, told him I was on my way, and hung up.

About half way to the hospital, I lost it. I was terrified this “bump on the head” would cause more brain injury. I pounded the steering wheel and screamed, “Why? Why? How could this happen? Why!” as I wiped the nonstop flow of tears from my eyes. I could not get to the hospital fast enough Calm Womanand prayed that the expressway would be rid its usual overwhelming commuter traffic that morning. I underwent a minor breakdown. By the time I reached the hospital, I was composed and ready to handle the situation …

 

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Sneak Peeks for Prisoners

My book, Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, will be released to the public on November 1, 2018 by WriteLife Publishing of Boutique of Quality Books Publishing Company.  Here are pre-order links for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Excerpt 6

Chapter 15

Emotional Roller-coaster

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

nurse-clipart-2645bff0709e4cf23bcaff6690965816-1… A few days later, on January 26th, David gave his night nurse a scare, which in turn frightened me. When David’s night nurse Melody checked on David in the middle of the night, she found him sitting up in bed. That’s not so scary, except that David had no control over his body. He was unable to move, and his muscles were slack, but somehow he had found the bed controls that raise and lower the sick-clipart-sick-person-12mattress and fiddled with them enough to bring his upper mattress to a dangerously high, perpendicular position. He was seated precariously upright—nearly flopping over like a Raggedy Andy doll.

When Melody, whom I absolutely adored, told me of the incident the next morning, I detected a barely perceptible grin on David’s face. He had enjoyed his unwitting prank …

 

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